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Biodiversity changes and Microplastics on Arctic beaches

Did you know?
There are different sizes of plastic pollutants; macro (large), micro (small) and nano (microscopic). Sometimes natural weathering processes break down large pieces of plastics to smaller pieces in nature. However, processes in homes such as in washing machines and tumble driers can release small fibres into the drainage systems and the sea.
Illustrations: Sonya Del, TSU
Did you know that what we eat might even have plastic in? This is due to a process called bioaccumulation. This happens when a contaminant, in this case nanoplastics, created from our plastic waste, are eaten by zooplankton (very small animals that live in water) which are eaten by small fish which then are eaten by a large predator fish such as tuna or king mackerel. The highest animals on the food chain bioaccumulate the greatest amount of plastics because they eat many of the smaller animals. Humans then eat the tuna and king mackerel and the plastics in them!
Illustrations: Sonya Del, TSU

Get Active!
How can you reduce your plastics?
Why is recycling important?
Recycling is very important in many ways for helping the environment. With plastic pollution becoming an ever-increasing problem, it is essential for us to know how best to prepare our materials for recycling and particularly increase the likelihood of the plastics being made into something else rather than being disposed of.
Recycling actually reduces carbon emissions. This is because if the waste went straight to landfill, it would eventually be burned, causing MANY harmful greenhouse gases to be emitted into the atmosphere through the burning. Further, recycling helps us to accumulate less waste in landfills as eventually we will run out of space for these landfills. Recycling saves energy and resources and helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the production of new plastics.

It is important to follow the 3 R's — Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Reduce
By reducing, we are decreasing the demand for the plastics in the first place. This means that less plastics will be made in the long run, which would cut down on the use of a lot of limited resources, energy and the greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere.
Reuse
Reusing allows us to use something more than once. This is important as we want to use materials until they cannot be used anymore. If a plastic bottle looks perfectly fine and isn't broken, surely we can use it again for something instead of throwing it away?
Recycle
Recycling lets us reuse the materials, even if they are broken or falling apart. Recycling is helpful as it breaks items like milk jugs and water bottles into small pieces of plastic and these small pieces can then be used to make lots of different things!
Tips for re-using!
Turn plastic bottles into bowling pins with a newspaper bowling ball.
Save up 10 plastic bottles of roughly the same size and line them up like the image below. Scrunch up a newspaper to make a bowling ball and have a bowling tournament with your family or friends.

Make a watering can out of a reused milk bottle to water your herb garden.
Milk bottles are great to reuse as they already have a built in handle, perfect to make a watering can. This project will need parental supervision and may not be safe for children to do on their own. You will need to clean and dry out the milk bottle. The only thing you need to do for this project is poke holes in the lid for the water to escape. Using threading needles, heat them up over a match or a lighter and when hot, poke through the lid multiple times to create the holes. Alternatively, you can use safety pins to make the holes, just be careful of your fingers. Make as many holes as you like.
Photo credit: Rhianna Davies-Smith
Make a bird feeder. Clean a plastic bottle and cut two feeding holes into about a quarter of the way from the bottom, on both sides of the bottle. The feeding holes should be about 10 mm. Just below the feeding holes, cut two more holes big enough to fit a chopstick/stick. On the bottom of the bottle, use a pin to make small drainage holes so water doesn't stay in the bottle which would make the seeds rot. On the top of the bottle, on the lid, make a small hole with the scissors. Feed through twine into the hole and make a big double knot at one end so the bottle can hang from the twine. Insert the chopstick/stick in its appropriate holes so it goes all the way through the bottle and there is an approximate 10cm perch on either side of the bottle. Fill ¾ of the way up with bird seed. Tie the twine to a branch and let the bird feeder hang. Watch from a distance to see what birds feed from your recycled bird feeder.
Photo credit: Rhianna Davies-Smith
Looking to do more?
Set yourself a challenge! Pick up at least one piece of plastic every day and dispose of it correctly (with health and safety / wear gloves) or even join a beach clean.

Complete Wicked Weather Watch's 14 Day Stay at Home Sustainability Challenge.